Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Spider-Man has appeared in plenty of games over the years, but I don’t think there’s ever been one quite as ambitious as the four-in-one Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.

That’s neither a complement nor a criticism. The game is absolutely packed with features, as you’ll get to explore four different Spider-Man worlds with four different incarnations of the hero. The problem is that in trying to do so much, the game may not do anything particularly well. I got a chance to see three of the dimensions – Noir, Ultimate, and 2099 – at Microsoft’s X10 event in Toronto, and walked away with a mixed bag of first impressions.

Beginning with the good, the game gets incredibly high marks for style. Each of the dimensions is wholly unique and the entertaining comic book visuals won’t disappoint fans of the character. Even while you’re prowling through the darkness in the Noir dimension, the skill set is recognizably Spider-Man, and there are dozens of fun web-based ways to take out your enemies.

Unfortunately, the promised gameplay distinctions are a bit more superficial. The Ultimate and 2099 dimensions both played like brawlers with conventional mechanics.  2099 had more high-speed rooftop set pieces and Ultimate featured more fighting, but at the end of the day you’re still beating up unremarkable hordes of bad guys.

The effort to distinguish the dimensions may also have had a detrimental impact on the gameplay. Everything works, but the controls feel loose and a little too random. It’s tough to get into the flow of a fight and nothing is as intuitive as you’d like given the fast pace of the action.

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Having said that, the Noir dimension is far more original than its brethren. The controls are still a bit sloppy, but it’s less of an issue while you’re stealthily waiting for the right moment to attack, and while it’s not quite death-from-above – this is Spider-Man, not Splinter Cell – channeling Peter Parker’s inner black-ops agent provides one hell of a rush.

I’d personally like to see an entire game devoted to the Noir concept, but a fraction is still pretty good. Combined with all of the other offerings, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions may be doing just enough to interest the average gamer, so stay tuned for our full review when the game hits shelves on September 7